Week 4

This week’s readings offered a lot of information regarding virtual cultures, how they are cultivated, how they vary by context, and how they can be designed to promote specific outcomes. In T,L Taylor’s article, Finding New Worlds, he discussed his firsthand experience at an EverQuest Convention, where he came to understand how it’s online culture can be translated into physical, tangible interactions. Taylor’s article also indicates how the structure of the virtual community can influence its own cultural development. In the case of EverQuest, he explains, “EQ players do not play in one world but are scattered amongst duplicate versions of the game that reside on separate servers… each of which has its own name and often develops its own culture.” The EQ players then are categorized at the convention by their server name. Taylor recalls that this server identification shared by one another “becomes a shared identity and easy point of connection” when socializing at the convention. This is one way the limitations of the virtual environment influences its culture. Because these online communities are so massive, the organization of interactions seen online affects the social interactions, both virtually and physically. At the EQ Convention, server identities were the driving factor in social interactions, and Taylor explains that most conversation revolved around the game itself. Contrarily, in contexts like SecondLife, there is very little structure and users are free to navigate the entirety of the virtual “world.” The users don’t identify with a specific server, but create culture through the interactions they share online, how they dress, and where they spend their time; specifically, as we learned last week, avatars are important factors in self representations and interactions in SecondLife. The versatility and opportunity SecondLife offers in creating both your own avatar, and in manipulating the environment has led to the development of countless sub cultures which you can see when exploring the different worlds.

User participation is a fundamental factor in every virtual context, and makes the development of virtual cultures possible. In his article, Jenkins helps to identify the factors which contributed to the development and popularity of online experiences. Specifically, he classifies our generation to be a new participatory culture, both online and off, and expands three trends that contribute to how it came to be. Jenkins attributes new technological development, the economic climate favoring the integration of media conglomerates, and a range of subcultures promoting media production,  to be the primary contributions to the creation of our participatory culture; he describes how they have altered the ways we consumer media, and interact with each other and our environment. I think the fact the media consumers hold power and agency by being an interactive audience is what links these three articles together, as well as provides context moving forward in this class.

In order to develop our own personal virtual identity, as well as virtual cultures, it is important to understand that  we are participants, and are actively interacting with, and creating the culture around us. Lastly Robert Bloomfield takes us a step further, explaining how virtual worlds can be utilized for business education and research by harnessing specific cultural systems and structures found in both MMOGs and SecondLife. By structuring the virtual environment (by giving and withholding specific options and capabilities) and by providing tasks that motivate a specific outcome, it is possible to make virtual environments a powerful tool in unification and education, or whatever it is is the designers objective. Below is a political cartoon about media consumption. I feel this correlates strongly to what these articles have brought to my attention: We can either let the media manipulate us, or we can be proactive in how we utilize new technology. Many people identify only with tangible world, and primary rely on the media that’s placed in front of us (like the guy down below). Only a fraction of our population are actively participating in the virtual worlds and are even aware of the subcultures they possess. Much like the development of online zines in the 70s, (which orchestrated its fair share of cultural movements), I feel that virtual realities/environments have the potential to drive cultural revolutions,  it simply depends on how proactive we are as users.

media-spoonfeeding-cartoon

image credit: https://movingimages.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/media-spoonfeeding-cartoon.jpg

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Thinking Critically About the Web

Admittedly, I found the documentation,  “We Are Wizards”, to be quite interesting despite having little fascination with the Harry Potter films and “fandom.” The video captured the front lines of how media, in junction with each individuals interpretation of it, determine how its valued in society. The documentation includes first hand accounts of the Harry Potter phenomenon as it engulfs both people who were originally fanatics from the books, and also individuals whom contributed to its success only from exploration after seeing the movies. It wasn’t until the internet, however, that the interpretation of the fans gained power against the big guys at Warner Brothers.

The utilization of the internet, specifically in fan culture, is a momentous force when it comes to expanding, sharing and developing ideas in mass audience settings. We Are Wizards examines a couple websites dedicated exclusively to Harry Potter, and later, the War between Potter Fans and Warner Brother executives. The role of the internet has now changed how consumers view media content. With modern technologies, nearly everyone in the country has access to endless discussions, forums, videos, etc exhausting every possible facet of the Harry Potter books and movies (or anything else for that matter). Needless to say, I feel the internet has revolutionized fan culture, engaging the imaginative, inventive power of millions of people.

We Are Wizards was compelling in many subliminal, and oblivious ways, but the flaw I found with it in totality was lack of a fluid apparent purpose. The beginning of the video proposes the idea that something like Harry Potter can be detrimental to society as a whole; This was then followed by demonstrations of how fan culture, utilizing tools such as the web, fought back against the mass media big shots and created a culture all their own. The remainder of the video offers little opposition to the main “thesis” of the project other than that apparently witchcraft is harmful to society and Harry Potter is bad? It doesn’t add up to me. One of the concluding ideas conveyed in the short film emphasized the catholic, values intertwined into the “Potter” series and the overwhelming concept of good’s triumph over evil. The video editing was quality and made a couple arguments that I feel had potential, but I was lost in trying to figure out exactly what the creators were trying to say.

Final Group Project Progress

As a group, my team members and I have made successful, collaborative progress on our Strategic Presentation Final Project video. Our strong group dynamic is founded upon each of the abilities and attributes we individually process, which we together can manipulate to  create the strongest possible project. Our communication and overall organization has certainly helped us overcome challenges as a group. Upon first investigation of the task at hand, we felt overwhelmed with the number of possible directions this prompt and project could take. Each member of our group had interesting ideas that we wanted to investigate. Without the necessary time to meet up in person and discuss our plans, we looked to virtual communication as a reliable and habilitating solution. Utilizing both facebook, and google drive, we were able to communicate and even create a storyboard where we could all actively edit the information simultaneously. A second hurdle we were confronted with was the lack of equipment, prompts and general experience. Upon creating our storyboard, we discovered that many of the ideas we originally had for the video weren’t actually possible because we didn’t possess the tools we needed to create the shot. To overcome this issue we plan to use barrowed audio, video, and images from the creative commons search engine. Also, editing our own film to give the allusion of what we are trying to depict will help us avoid eliminating our ideas completely.

As our filming day quickly approaches, I can predict that we will be confronted with the bulk of our difficulties in shooting and editing. From past experience I’ve learned that getting good audio and visual media in one shot is often near impossible. With the storyboard we created, however, we hope that many of the shots will minimize difficulties with the technical aspects of shooting. When editing our footage I worry about the challenges which could arrive with the audio overlay. Practice with iMovie and audacity, though, will certainly help us to create the desired product.

Creative Commons Search Engine

The creative commons search engine was an extremely useful asset in gathering media for our final project. Until being introduced to Creative Commons, I had little idea about where to begin in searching for and determining what is, and what is not media allowed to be used and edited. The Creative Commons Search Engine was simple, easy to navigate, and directed me straight to content free to use and mix on a variety of media sharing websites. Media that we might have had trouble creating for our final project (due to lack of equipment, experience, budget, etc) can now be represented in our video using borrowed video, images, audio etc.

I found the video attached above on youtube using the creative commons search engine. I feel that this would be particularly helpful in our video to represent the time elapsed without using captions, and give a setting the video clips to follow which we would create ourselves. Because we have to ability to make edits to the video, I think it would be good cut to the clip, and only use the last 10 seconds. As the white light overcomes the shot at the end of the video, I think it would be nice to over lay the following sound clip of an alarm clock, before cutting to “waking up” scene.

https://soundcloud.com/narcosislabs/ben-alarm-clock

The alarm clock audio above might be beneficial to our group’s final project video because it is a clean recording and does not include any possible background noise. In our own filming, its more difficult to eliminate all the possible sounds in the background.

Lastly, I feel the following image of a clutter desk in a messy room could be used in our video to save the time of actually having to messy up a room, and or desk just for the purpose of filming.  By quickly flashing to this image in the overall scan of the cluttered room, it gives the illusion that this desk is in the room, and that the person inhabiting it, (The bad interviewee) , is not organized at all.

Post Storyboard Creation

Before creating our storyboard, all of our  group ideas for our video were disconnected, and unorganized. Through the process of creating the storyboard we were able to bring structure to the creative ideas we’ve been discussing. Together we decided upon ” A Day in the Life” theme, and wanted to illustrate how using the tools of Career Services can greatly improve your interviewing skills. When it actually came down to creating the individual slides of the storyboard we were confronted with the challenge of only including shots that we felt we had the necessary materials to create. We strayed away from public areas, or including people that we didn’t necessarily have actors to play their roles. In the creation of our storyboard, we, in essence, created a step by step guide for filming. Now, when we go to actually film our video, we have a thorough outline of each shot. Creating this guide is also crucial in saving us time when it comes to actually shooting the scenes. Having an organized plan will eliminate the time it would normally have taken to decide what scenes to film when. In the storyboard we also included footnotes that indicate where we feel specific visual, audio and transition effects would be.

 

 

image credit: www.mywebpresenters.com

Creating A Storyboard

When first being presented with our final group project, an array of possibilities filled my mind. Creating a storyboard would definitely be a tool that would help organize my own, as well as my group members’, collaborative thoughts and ideas regarding the creative direction of our video. At first we discussed many of the utilities Career Services has to offer, and felt that many of the resources showed potential to create an effective video around. After some deliberation, we decided upon magnifying and dissecting the interview process through the depiction of one person who is well prepared, and another who is not. Hopefully, from this general idea, we can add creativity and humor. We briefly discussed doing a “Day in the Life” theme, where we follow each individual as they prepare for the interview. I feel like this could be a strong idea and overall concept for our video because we can incorporate humor through exaggerations of the Do’s and Dont’s of preparing for an interview. The story board will help us plan out this exact process, and gather our creative ideas when it comes to acting out the scenes, and designing the setting.

 

image borrowed from: www.bbc.co.uk

Designing My Midterm Blog

As we approach the half way point in strategic presentation, I’ve found that all the individual things we learned come into play in designing a blog. Specifically, appealing to my audience was important to me. My first step was deciding on a theme that would exude both creativity, and credibility all while exhibiting my personality and taste. Upon reaching my decision, I felt that I could personalize the theme beyond the generic pre-settings of wordpress. I choose a theme that was simple, and wouldn’t leave your eyes wandering or have many different points of focus. Then, I changed the background image to a cork board to bring a sense of professionalism, and organization to my blog.

The next thing I began to do was incorporate posts that I found interesting, appealing, and helpful to my readers. My target audience was other dog owners or lovers, like myself. I hoped to draw upon my own experience with dogs, as well as my insight on what dog owners might enjoy to bring tasteful, thought provoking information to my blog. I also hoped to encompass a range of things that my readers may find helpful include training tips, pet care advice, and simply fun or interesting information about dogs.

These three reoccurring themes were eventually created into my categories, which help classify my posts. If my blog appeals to someone particularly because they are a new owner and need tips and trick on caring for their dog, they can visit the “Pet Care” category to quickly view all the posts I’ve classified as such. This same principle applies to each of my categories, which I find successful encompass the many aspects of taking care of and loving a dog.

The other widgets I included are incorporated to make my blog easily navigable to my readers. The links section brings organization to the links I address in my post that I find could be helpful to my audience long after my post has been published. Now even months after posting the link, you can easily find it in the side bar, as opposed to searching through a list of blog posts.

For the final group project I am really looking forward to using the combined knowledge of my group members and I to accomplished the task. The feedback from other people is very constructive, and I think together we can accomplished things that may seem impossible to do individually. The Hyde reading brought to my attention how each individuals’ participation is not necessarily the same as sharing, and how to successfully collaborate ideas. I hope together we can exercise the correct collaborate practices in successful tackling a group project.

TOP 5 BLOGS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. http://basmith8193.wordpress.com/

Bridget’s Blog particularly appealed to me because of it’s overall theme, organization, and mood. The calm colors really nicely accent the header, which I feel expresses her personality really well. Additionally, Bridget’s blog offers consistent blog posts, and detailed descriptions of her experiences with strategic presentation. I think other people would definitely benefit from viewing her blog because the her easily going personality resonates through her work and would be appealing to many other people like myself and bridget.

2. http://bjornsvendsenblog.wordpress.com/

Bjorn’s blog was certainly one of my top picks for its overall aesthetic appeal and organization. The color scheme is fluent, and the header matches perfectly to his theme. The cohesiveness of the header, theme, posts, and overall aspects of his blog make it user friendly by its clean organization. The simplicity Bjorn capitalizes on, makes his blog particularly successful. As a viewer I can easily navigate my way around his blog, and find the important information that I find interesting. Bjorn also posts a lot of videos which I personally enjoy a lot. As a lazy blogger, I’d definitely prefer to watch a video as opposed to read a post. I also like that the videos help emphasize or support a point he makes in his writing. I think other people would agree that the visual components of his blog, along with his organization, make it worth viewing.

3. http://marykatecriscuoloblog.wordpress.com/

I found Marykate’s blog specifically interesting because I myself am into fitness, and eating right. Her blog immediately got my attention with the header, and title, which was bold, and easy to find at the top of her blog. The messages she sends through her choice in naming her blog, and designing the header are motivational and something that appeals specifically to me as an athlete. Her background also incorporates a brand that I like, and I think many of her audience members would like. The subject matter of her posts are also awesome because they encompass the many areas of fitness that a college athlete would be interested in.

4. http://breajohnson36.wordpress.com/

Brea’s blog doesn’t a few things in particular that I found make it notably successful. First, the content and responses she gives for each post are comprehensive, and interesting. She also divides the writing into paragraphs, or with a picture to make it more visually stimulating and easy on the readers eyes. Secondly, I admire the relevance of the pictures she includes with her posts. All her photos support or illustrate the writing in her posts and are also commonly humorous. Overall, I feel that her blog is effective in doing the things she aims to do, and think other people would enjoy her page as well. Its simple, cute, and just generally intriguing.

5. http://shoppingwithskylar.wordpress.com/

Skylar’s blog caught my attention first, solely on its beautiful design and artistic elements, and then on its organization and content. Upon first stumbling on her blog I was immediately interested because of the visually appealing aspects of her blog. The color scheme and header are simple yet compliment each other perfectly. They work in accordance to build both credibility and interest. After getting over how much I simply enjoyed the look of her blog, I began exploring the content and found that it is continued to attract me. Having an interest in fashion, and as any girl could tell you, online shopping in addicting and time consuming! Skylar’s blog takes a lot of the work out of finding clothes I would be interested in, and brings them to my attention in one single location. I think many girls would visit her blog for the same reason.

Editing Audio

To stay the least, this week’s assignment proved to be nothing short of a gigantic headache. It toke me forever to simply find the audacity link that didn’t look like it was going to download a million viruses to my PC, and when I did the process was tedious and annoying to get it up and running. Because my computer wouldn’t save sound recording as mp3 files, I ended up scraping all of the narration I had been working on and had to turn to my phone to try and get it done. When I couldn’t get my phone to record as mp3 files, I FINALLY was successful when discovering a website that does it for you.

After what seemed like years later, I finally had the raw materials I needed to get the assignment done. After uploading the songs and audio recording into audacity I began exploring its features. The program seems like it would be really easy to use……… if I had any other experience with it whatsoever before Monday’s class. I couldn’t remember how exactly to use all the features, and all the terminology and weird symbols just added to the challenge. Trying to follow the assignment instructions was difficult because I was having trouble making the tracks sound and flow nicely together. Using the sound controlling button/feature/whatever wasn’t as hard as I thought it was to use at first in class, but even so, I found that I couldn’t even create a noticeable difference. The audio I recorded was way to loud even after the adjustment.

The final push to tackle and finish this assignment led to my white flag. When trying “Export” my track (not save!) I couldn’t save it as an mp3 and I was at the final straw. After hours of trying to make it work, I gave up. I guess my future wont be in audio producing/editing. I think the program has a lot of potential, even for me personally, but being no-so-tech-savvy , I would need an entire lesson to get this assignment done to anything worth presenting.

Image Editing: Creating a Header

An interesting photo illustrating the addict to the internet. Borrowed from Channelstv.com

An interesting photo illustrating the addict to the internet. Borrowed from Channelstv.com

During class on Monday I was very curious as to how Pixlr worked, and was interested in learning to use it in the most efficient way. Following along during class I felt confident in exploring the different features of the website, however, I found that once I was alone at home with Pixlr open, I was lost. The overwhelming number of options, and customization tools confused me, and trying to utilize them to the fullest was frustrating. Luckily, the tutorials provided on the ecollege page were easy to follow and I was able to get the hang of things a little better. Over all, the whole process was certainly time consuming, but I found that the longer I spent experimenting with the tools and gadgets on the site that I became better at using them. The features of the program are definitely a cool online resource that up until now, I wouldn’t have known about. Trying to come up with a header image idea might have been the hardest part of this assignment. After several, long minutes of staring at the Google images navigation page, I referred back to the homework directions for guidance. The prompt said to combine two images, so I began to think of the true purpose of this blog itself. What two images could I use to represent its purpose? I started with the background image. This image is supposed to represent my personal input in the creation and editing of the blog. The underwater scene matches my Theme and illustrates my personality. The next image I choose to merge with the background is the Rutgers University crest. This acts as a symbol of the academic purpose of my blog (and I might be guilty of showing some RU pride).  I tried (and wasn’t all that successful lol) in making the crest appear as if it is sitting on the sand underwater. I used the eraser tool, blurred the image, and added a filter in order to make it look as if it was actually sunk to the ocean floor.  Despite my embarrassing attempt, I’m eager to practice using Pixlr and hopefully master the art of image editing. In addition, I found Colman’s article very interesting in correlation to the image editing process. Using images from the internet made me aware of the importance of making sure they were taking with the Creative Commons Attribution license. The information discussed about hacking, trolls and phracking was also intriguing because of its regularity and commonness. This class and process of creating a blog itself is really teaching me so much  I didn’t know that existed right in front of me in the virtual word.